The Dirty Little Neil Walker Secret

As much as the Mets would like the fans to believe yesterday’s Jay Bruce trade was solely about bolstering the inept offense, it also said a lot about the Mets future plans. It undoubtedly exposed the Mets dirty little secret. The first thing it showed was fairly obvious. Jay Bruce is “insurance” for when Yoenis Cespedes opts-out of his contract. But insurance isn’t really a fair term to use because it implies that Bruce is protection against something unexpected happening. The “unexpected” thing to protect against would be Yoenis Cespedes taking big money to go elsewhere at the end of the season. I would argue that’s not unexpected. It’s seemingly an absolute lock. The Mets made it clear last offseason they had no intention of paying Cespedes the money he has earned and giving him the long term deal he deserves. They lucked out because the free agent market was skeptical of Yo repeating his career best 2015 season. As a result, he was willing to spurn the Nationals and accept the Mets ridiculous one year opt-out deal.

But the other thing the Bruce deal officially confirmed is we are about to experience Daniel Murphy 2.0 with Neil Walker in free agency. The Mets supposedly let Daniel Murphy go because they felt his defense was too much of a liability, but they also sold everyone on the notion that Dilson Herrera was the unquestioned second baseman of the future for the organization. Yet yesterday they put him into the Bruce deal in place of Brandon Nimmo like it was nothing and shipped him off to the Reds. When he was asked about second base beyond this season, Sandy Alderson mentioned Jose Reyes and Triple-A shortstop Gavin Cecchini . He made no mention of Neil Walker in the pool of candidates. Why? Because there’s no chance the Mets retain him. He’s Neil Walkyear. He was brought in to ultimately walk away and make room for Herrera. That was his destiny. But now Herrera is gone, and I feel like everyone has just accepted the notion that Walker will be gone soon too. Nobody is asking why.

Why wouldn’t the Mets consider retaining Walker? After a scorching hot April where he hit 9 home runs and posted a .962 OPS, he cooled a lot between May and July. His .565 June OPS was exceptionally bad. But he still posted a respectable .754 OPS in May and a .753 OPS in July. He still ranks 6th in the NL in OPS among qualifying second baseman. He still ranks second among NL second baseman with 17 home runs behind you know who. If he finishes strong in August and September, he’ll rank among the top second baseman in the NL in plenty of offensive categories. That’s the exact player we were told we were getting when we traded for him. He also has an UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of 8.2 according to FanGraphs which is tops among MLB second baseman. So one of the advanced metrics says he’s been a strong defender in 2016. Based on all that, why wouldn’t we consider signing him to the reasonable 3 or 4 year deal that he’s likely to command as a free agent? I’ll tell you why. It’s the same reason we didn’t even entertain signing Murph. The Mets have no interest in signing players to long-term deals, especially if they can fill the need for free (see Jose Reyes). And I’m not saying Neil Walker is the unequivocal choice for second base or a long term deal either. I’m not solely making an impassioned plea for Neil Walker. If the Mets want to consider other infielders like Martin Prado, Justin Turner, or someone else in the offseason that’s fine by me. But you know they won’t do that. They will all command multi-year contracts. The Mets haven’t said a word about that because it’s not in the cards.

Can you believe Sandy cited Jose Reyes as the second baseman of the future? The same Jose Reyes that was the subject of deplorable off-field actions and the same Reyes that currently sits on the DL (where he spends most of his time). Well now we know the dirty little secret. We know that the Herrera second baseman of the future story was just a line we were fed to make it easier to stomach the front office’s decision to pass on signing Murph to a reasonable 3-year deal. I’m sure they’ll come up with an even better spin as we get closer to the offseason to rationalize not even pursuing Walker at all in free agency. Sure he’s a former Silver Slugger winner and has a chance to lead all NL second baseman in home runs this season, but who cares? We have Jose! At least until he strains his hammy in Spring Training.

Mets Acquire Duda’s Neanderthal Brother Jay Bruce

I’ve always wanted the Mets to acquire Jay Bruce. Not just because of his prolific power. I’ve always wanted him because Bruce and Lucas Duda are both left-handed hitting National League Neanderthal sluggers. #LucasSmash and #BruceBash. Now we finally get to see the power duo join forces. And by that I mean we hope to see them join forces when Lucas Duda’s cracked back heals. But the Mets officially acquired Bruce for Dilson Herrera and minor league pitcher Max Wotell. The original deal was for Brandon Nimmo and two minor leaguers. But of course that deal was scrapped because one of the low level minor leaguers coming from the Mets had medical issues. Is there a single healthy player in the Mets organization that can play or be traded? Every major leaguer goes on the DL and now the minor leaguers all have medical issues? It’s insanity.

I’m a little surprised the Mets dealt Herrera. They must have soured on him as the heir apparent at second base. That being said, it’s not like second base is a big problem considering we have Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores , and Neil Walker (who we can easily re-sign). Bruce leads the NL in RBIs. He’s hitting .265/.316/.559 with 25 homers and 80 RBIs. This is a great pickup. I don’t care that we have a bunch of corner outfielders. I’m pretty sure we can find a place for him in our lineup. That place will obviously be 4th in the order. I really hope this doesn’t mean that Yoenis Cespedes will be placed on the DL because of his balky quad. We shall see.

The Good News: The addition of Bruce is obviously great for the 2016 Mets. He will certainly help boost the offense. I realize he’s a terrible defender, but the quality of our defense doesn’t really matter if we can’t score a single run. Judging by all the acquisitions we’ve made this season, Jay Bruce will be on the first rickshaw out of Cincinnati and will join the Mets in roughly two weeks. 

Going forward this gives the Mets Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jose Reyes all under contract for one more season. If the Mets like that crop of players for 2017 then that’s fine. If they want to shake things up, they have lots of attractive trade chips to potentially flip for other major league players that fill different needs.

The Bad News: The bad news is this reinforces what I’ve been saying for months. The Mets now have their “contingency plan” when Yoenis Cespedes opts-out of his contract. As soon as he opts out the Mets are going to say, “Well we have three corner outfielders (Bruce, Michael Conforto, and Grandy) and only two corners. Gotta let him walk. What else can we do?” They are going to say Yo refused to play center field. They are going to say he’s injury prone (instead of acknowledging he’s a damn iron man warrior). Whatever. I’ll worry about that when the time comes, but the Mets must keep Yo.

Another Boost On Offense: Jay Bruce is a nice addition, but I’m hoping the Mets have re-acquired Neil Walker’s bat for the rest of the season. He’s been hot lately. That would be a huge boost to this offense.

Instagram: Curtis Granderson is going to have to update his WeFollowLucasDuda Instagram account to include Jay Bruce now that the two giant lefty cavemen sluggers will share a locker room. Also, Grandy is going to have to find someone else to run the account when the Mets trade him in the offseason to solve our new outfield “logjam”. For the record other teams call this logjam depth.

Long Story Short: I’m happy. Adding a new talented player makes me happy. The trade deadline makes me happy. One day I’d like to be the guy that works for an MLB team and leaks everything to the media. The Julian Assange of Major League Baseball. I’ll be the best damn leak in the business.